10/07/11 7:37 PM ET
Konerko surprised but happy about Ventura
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Then came Konerko's second reaction after having a little time to digest the move. And that one also would fall into the surprise category.
"His name hadn't come up," said the White Sox captain during a conference call with Chicago reporters on Friday to discuss the new manager, referring to numerous rumors involving possible replacements for Ozzie Guillen. "But my first thought was surprised, not because we hired him but more because it was something I didn't know he wanted to do.
"All good thoughts, though. He's a great guy. I've never come across anyone with anything bad to say about him as a person or how he is."
Ventura becomes the third manager during Konerko's soon-to-be 14-year tenure on the South Side of Chicago, and fourth if you count pitching coach Don Cooper's two-game interim status at the end of 2011. It all began with Jerry Manuel, who started in 1998, one year before Konerko's arrival.
Konerko produced his best seasons under Guillen's regime, from 2004 through the third-to-last game of this past season, reaching at least 30 home runs six times and at least 100 RBIs in five separate campaigns. It was after the 2005 World Series championship when Guillen named the veteran first baseman his first and only captain.
The balance of Konerko's low-key, pragmatic wisdom and Guillen's more shoot-from-the-hip, in-your-face type of leadership formed a successful combination. Ventura's personality falls far closer to Konerko, but being considered quiet shouldn't be misconstrued for lack of an authoritative nature, in Konerko's estimation.
"A lot of people think being nice and great equals easy-going and a pushover. That's what people probably will learn is not the case," said Konerko of Ventura. "More of the stories I've heard about him involve standing up to people and even getting into physical fights in the clubhouse, dugout or the major one on the field.
"Managing people won't be tough for him. He can get along with everyone and talk with everyone and deal with everyone on an individual basis. Just in talking to people who played with him, I think he's the guy, like Ozzie, who will call you out on the carpet and be more abrasive then everyone thinks."
Guillen's managerial style certainly played out successfully in the big picture, with 2005's amazing run and an American League Central title in 2008. It was a stretch that began with Guillen having nothing more than big league coaching experience with the Expos and the Marlins.
This second Ken Williams' managerial hire features an individual who has never held even a professional baseball coaching position, aside from Ventura's four-month stint as a special advisor to director of player development Buddy Bell. Ventura's inexperience has been one of the hot-button issues since Thursday afternoon's official announcement, but Konerko believes 16 years of on-field excellence will serve well as Ventura's apprenticeship.
There might be an adjustment in handling the day-to-day duties required of a manager. There won't be an issue in regard to game or player management.
"He's been in a clubhouse most of his whole life," Konerko said. "The older players are looking forward to it and conversing with him and picking his brain on what makes a good team.
"I guess the question is that there have been other situations when managers were hired where they weren't even a manager at the Minor League level, or just a first base coach or bench coach for a season, and they get it. How much better off are those guys, let's say if they played three or four years in the big leagues, or a guy who has none of those jobs but played as long as Robin? Is it a push? I don't know."
As far as making contact with Ventura, Konerko will leave that call up to the new manager. Konerko believes in the rank and file of an organization, meaning Konerko will be happy to answer any questions Ventura has, from now through the end of the 2012 season, but otherwise will just continue to lead by example.
By arriving in 1999, Konerko missed playing with Ventura in Chicago by one season. He knows the new manager primarily from conversations at charity events associated with the team or through Ventura's visits to White Sox games. He has a good image of Ventura, the person, as well as what he knows about Ventura, the player. The next level of judgment is Ventura, the manager.
"Nobody has a crystal ball and knows as to how it will play out," Konerko said. "But with the way his personality is, and the person he is and his resume in the game, for anybody to get a job like this without experience, Robin is one of those guys who you stick to the forefront because of balancing those things. He could get a job like this, and did get a job like this, without any experience.
"Robin is close to the organization, but has been closer the last few months and involved a little more. He knows what's going on. He knows the changes he wants to make and he'll do it."